In Which Demons are Battled

The game was up, and Patches knew it. His head hung limp, secure in the knowledge of his fate; there was no use in further struggle. The whole struggle, all of that effort, was an exercise in wasted time and agony; he had no right to call himself a burglar, cat or otherwise.

“Oi! C’mon, mate, what’s the plan, then?”

Patches didn’t answer. Patches didn’t have a plan apart, perhaps, from laying down to die. His past had caught up with him in the form of Count Fontanello, and there was not a damned thing to be done about it. Patches declined to answer. A scaly head butted against his well-tailored shoe, relentless. “Done feeling sorry for yerself? No? I can wait while ‘is Terrifyin’ Lordship gets ‘is strength up and saunters our way. Go on, have a blub, you’ll feel better, lad.”

Patches sneered, spurred into a proper snit, stalked towards the apparent exit, every inch of his modest frame frosted with icy dignity. Decca kept close to his heels, desperate to see through the frothy blizzard, glad he’d been able to prick the prick out of shock or whatever it had been. They were just about to make a clean getaway, when the light subtly altered. There was a flicker in front of them; the air took on a skewed quality. Just as quickly, the discrepancy resolved itself; the Count stood before them, blocking their way.

“COME NOW, OLD BOY – SURELY YOU DIDN’T THINK YOU COULD SLIP OUT WITHOUT SAYING HELLO TO AN OLD FRIEND?”
Patches couldn’t even manage a stammer, let alone a real response. His despair came rushing back; he was tired, he was lost, he was scared, and his only backup was a saucy turtle – there was no way that he could save himself, so why bother with the clever repartee?

And that’s when Decca, the bloody turtle, launched himself snapper-first towards the Count. Patches might have been of two minds regarding his companion, but such selfless sacrifice – against his oldest foe! – well, Patches couldn’t let the poor chap die alone. Retreating to his feline form without a word, he launched himself towards Fontanello’s eyes.

As the two diminutive animals reached their lordly target, naturally he dissolved into dark smoke. Naturally he reformed behind them in a burst of flame, waiting for them to engage. Patches shifted back, with a slight effort – he wasn’t as young as he used to be – picked Decca up, and tucking him neatly into his waistcoat, began running for the now unguarded exit.

“Wot the ‘ell’d you do that for?”

“Discretion, valour, and all that,” Patches wheezed. It was only a slim hope, but when they broke into sunlight, Patches could’ve cried. They were safe from the Fontanello – at least for a few hours.

And that’s when he spotted Eugenia, lounging on the beach beneath a UV-Repellant veil.

An Unusual Explosion

Patches cringed at the voice he hadn’t heard in decades, and quite frankly, had hoped he would never hear again. It was not a voice one would ever forget. Ordinarily cool under pressure, he glanced around frantically trying to locate the body behind the voice and get his bearing before it was too late.

Mr. Johnson’s predecessor had the deep basso that operatic singers coveted, even envied, and it reverberated through the cavern with quaking familiarity.

“INDEED, THEY ARE QUITE CLOSE.”

His name was Count Fontanello, and he had run the city’s premiere underground ring for as long as Patches could remember. One day, he simply vanished, and it had been speculated that he was behind every unsolved crime in the world. The entire world.

Including one that could possibly mean the end of Patches.

The cat whispered nearly silently to Decca, “Not a sound.”

Decca nodded, his eyes round with fear.

“Stay here,” he mouthed.

He jumped to an outcropping with characteristic feline grace, grateful to be deep in the shadows. From here, he could see the Count, an outline silhouetted in the dim light: familiar broad shoulders, sweep of the trademark cape, top hat, lengthy tail. Patches suppressed a shudder at the memory of that tail and how it had nearly contributed to his end.

He also knew that the Count’s excessive volume was a show, meant to flush them out. Patches had worked with him for too long to know better. The Count could hum quietly if he really needed to.

Finnegan had ceased his babbling at the Count’s first appearance, but now he resumed calling out, his cries taking on a desperate, shrill manner.

“CEASE! OR I WILL END YOU.”

The tail curved outward, and Patches, knowing what would probably come next, leapt noiselessly out of sight. He didn’t want to try reason with the Count – or really even speak with him again – so he returned to the turtle.

Before he could instruct Decca on how to proceed, the thunderous voice hummed menacingly below, presumably instructing Finnegan on how to proceed. There wouldn’t be much time now. The Count knew things.

“Hold on!” Patches hissed, swinging Decca on his back. He nimbly climbed, searching for the way out that had to be there.

Just then, an explosion of shaving cream burst forth, coating everything. Everything. As if the entire cache had detonated.

As Patches wiped it from his face, the light reflected off the creamy white, and he saw it – a place where the cream had waffled. A way out.

Unfortunately, a voice from below boomed.

“SEE, I TOLD YOU YOU’D FIND THEM FOR ME.”

Dramatics and Daring Escapes?

With a mighty exhale, the dragon changed the appearance of the room in one fell swoop of his nostrils, taking poor Finnegan with the billowing mass of confusion. “Don’t either of you worry,” called he as he flew through the air rapidly yet with remarkable calm, “for this fellow occasionally has his night terrors, and with them come the wind storms, y’know.”

“‘S not all, mate,” Decca warned in a whisper, but his companion had already set his gaze on the matter and hid himself quite immediately, tail unconsciously flopping in displeasure. The dragon was sniffing for something, and not in the way a slumber may ever bring. He was not inconspicuous in the slightest, because indeed, in all his fury and might, why might he ever have an occasion to? Decca lowered himself slowly and placed himself close to his companion. “Well right then. What are we blokes to do?”

Before the feline could reply, he was quite abruptly interrupted by a ferocious clashing of pots and pans along the eastern wall. The tidal wave seemed never to end, the metal clanging over and over enough to make the toughest of men cower. “Ah, don’t you worry, my friends! Old Finnegan’s been through much worse, he has, and this sort of thing is just like ‘im. Temper in his sleep, that is, least that I can make out.”

Even as the indigo man flit right back to where he was before, he remained just as calm as ever before. There were obvious bruises even along his darkly-feathered skin, a dragon sniffing the air and moving about quite freely, shaving cream splattered about every corridor, pots and pans still managing, even a minute later, to fall from dark upper corners, and a serenely determined man with a can of cream still clutched firmly to his person.

“You see that, lads? How’s that for dexterity eh? Still got some girth in me yet!” He looked about the room and scratched his head. “Now, just where did those lads run off to?”

“Follow my lead if you care to free yourself unscathed from this place,” whispered Patches just as loud as he dared. “Now!”

Slow and steady was not the order of the day, and Decca regretted his lack of limbs suited for running. He learned quite well how to carry himself in battle, aversion his forte, but his legs were a veritable challenge. So it was that Decca remained quite far behind as Patches dashed forward quite efficiently and eloquently onto the single plaited rope leading directly into the vents above, all without a second glance. Realizing his error, Patches cursed at his rotten fortune; he hated having to work with others, and now he had to suffer the consequence of retrieving his straggling companion—whatever that meant in this unlucky scenario.

Blindly, Patches followed the voices below. Wishing sorely that a grating may appear, he tried the best he could to make out what he could. By the tone, it was at least clear that the hunt was still on. Finnegan patiently and whimsically called out to his newly-gained friends over and over again, the names a blur that seemed to all but lose meaning.

Sighing wistfully, Finnegan finally gave up when the cream bottle lost its remaining contents. “Aw, but I liked our little team. Oh, my small wee lads! I do sorely hope ye have not wandered far!”

“OH BELIEVE ME, MY DEAR FRIEND,” he heard from behind a loud, booming voice, “THEY’RE CLOSER THAN YOU MAY REALIZE, AND I DO BELIEVE THAT YOU’RE GOING TO GIVE THEM TO ME.”

In which we find ourselves with something completely different

As he slowly returned to consciousness, Patches was careful to give no sign. It might be called playing possum, but a cat knew how to do it just as well (better, really). His eyes remained closed and he strained his ears to pick out details in the chaos about him. There was Miss Angeline’s voice, the profanities were sounding desperate. Could that be Johnson? The high-pitched cries of the savage, bloody fairies made him want to wrinkle his forehead.

A weight landed on his stomach, he couldn’t help but let out an “oof!”. He cracked his eyes to take a peek and saw Decca on his stomach, wielding a knife. “Oi! Back off ye mangy sprites!” Opening his eyes a little wider, Patches saw a veritable cloud of, well, mangy sprites, hovering around him. Decca slashed his knife about again and the cat caught a glimpse of the manic gleam in his eye, “One or all, I’ll take ye!”

Patches couldn’t understand the screech-y fairy language, but Decca seemed to well enough. The turtle was surprisingly effective with his knife. A fairy darted too close and his claws knocked it askew in the air. “Not so bloody quick!” The cat decided it was a lot simpler to remain “unconscious” and let his apparent ally take care of the dirty work.

His eyes almost closed and focused on what was happening, he almost didn’t hear it above the sounds of the battle happening atop him. Gradually he became aware. It was a strange almost whistling sound. It was a bit like the sound that could sometimes be heard when driving at high speed with the windows down.

The temperature suddenly plummeted, but just as swiftly a warmth, like spring coming out of a frigid winter, arose. Patches had to let his eyes pop open. A mighty wind was coming up about him. The mangy sprites were whipped away and Decca clenched a claw in the cat’s shirt.

“And what’s this then, cat?”

He just shook his head, but had no time for a response. When words might have come an inadvertent screech was there instead. Patches and his passenger were hurled into the air. They didn’t whirl like something from a classic movie, no, they went straight up and then abruptly to the left. The cat kept his eyes wide and alert, but when they went through what seemed to be a wall of dust he was forced to close his eyes. Sight was important, and he didn’t want to lose it.

When next his eyes opened, he found himself lying in a cave with Decca still clutching his shirt. He looked around. It really was quite a nice entryway for a cave, not as rugged as one might expect. It might even be considered…Baroque? His eyes lit on a large pile of boxes nearby. He detached Decca, setting the dazed turtle aside to investigate a bit more thoroughly. Circling the boxes, he spied a label. He blinked and checked again. Sitting before him were 10 cases of…shaving cream?

“Don’t you be messing with me japes!” An indigo man appeared before him. It was clear that the most common adjective used for him must be “wee”.

The cat’s throat cleared, “I am not looking to interfere with any, erm…japes. I am, however, curious as to where my companion,” he gestured at the reviving reptilian punk rocker, “and myself have found ourselves. The how would be nice to know as well.”

Narrowed eyes and a cocked head met his query, “You didn’t mean to arrive yon?”

“No, ‘yon’ was not our goal.”

“Ach, then you must have been caught up in me delivery,” he rubbed his hands together gleefully, “Oh, when me japes quantify and exacerbate by pure chance ’tis a glorious thing!”

“Ah. Yes. Well. Where might we be?”

“Oh, you are in the lair of the dread dragon Fauntleroy. You can call myself by the name of Finnegan, I’ll call yon,” he gestured at Decca, “Brannigan. And you, me boy, shall be…Giles!”

“Ah.”

“Now help me me boys, there’s japes afoot!”

Patches found himself loading boxes of shaving cream onto a cart with very silent wheels. Decca was directed to the top of the pile with a cheery, “Your blade will come in right handy, Brannigan me friend!”

The two confused animals played along. They didn’t know where, besides the lair of a dragon, they were precisely. Since the being who called himself Finnegan had accidentally brought them there, it seemed he was their best chance at a return journey. Patches pushed the cart and Decca kept a sharp eye open.

Soon they found themselves alongside a dragon. With much grimacing and sweeping arm motions, the impish indigo man instructed them in their duties. Decca opened the boxes and handed canisters of shaving cream to the cat who tossed them to Finnegan. In short order, the wee man had filled the dragon’s two foreclaws completely with shaving cream.

A grin split his mischievous face nearly in two and he motioned his minions back. The animals took cover in a sheltered nook and watched as Finnegan floated above the dragon’s nose. A gigantic ostrich plume appeared in his hand which he gently brushed across the giant protuberance before him…